Harnessing social platforms to collaborate better
“We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the Internet”, says Sean Parker in The Social Network, the film on how Facebook was founded. And that has come to pass. Social networking has fundamentally redefined identity. Pervasive, intuitive and incredibly powerful in the way it cuts across barriers of time, distance and even language, it has changed the way we forge relationships, consume information and more importantly, understand ourselves. Like it or not, this change has already happened – in how you stay in touch with people you haven’t met in years, get instant updates on news from across the world, and form and share opinions on all kinds of issues. In many ways, nothing really happens anymore unless it’s happened on Facebook or Twitter or the like.
Of the many shifts that this has brought about, the most powerful is probably offering us more choice than we have ever had before – from among all the information it makes available, the connections to build with just about anyone across the world, to share your thoughts and be heard. So, many companies, like ours, are constantly exploring new ways to tap into these shifting trends and the massive amount of conversations being generated, engaging with their consumers, building insights, and growing and adapting in what is a constantly changing environment.
But, what if we were to take this a step further and leverage the same power of social networking within our company? Start listening closely to our own team members, have much more conversation, find ways to engage more meaningfully, share ideas and collaborate across geographies?
Drawing from this, my message this week is on how we can use social collaboration and the tools that have transformed how we connect in our personal lives, to redefine how we work together.
As you know, we have launched Facebook at Work for all our team members, across geographies, to explore how we can connect and collaborate more effectively. It has only been a couple of months, but the potential is tremendous. Some of you have taken to this very actively – thank you very much for that. As I am sure you are finding out, this is an incredibly powerful way to share, learn, recognise, connect and celebrate. The fundamental shift, as Nisa Godrej puts it, is that a tool like Facebook at Work “…makes a company seem smaller and more human, just like Facebook does for the world in general”. And as we grow and our teams become more diverse and widespread, developing this connect can be a critical differentiator for us.
However, there are many of you who are being passive spectators. As leaders, we need to wholeheartedly embrace this, if we are to give it a real shot. Apart from visibly showing your presence online to your teams, it is important for you to be aware of and participate in the conversations that we are having online within the leadership team.
So, here are some suggestions on how you can start leveraging Facebook at Work more effectively:
1. It only takes a few minutes
Please try to spend at least a few minutes every day on it. Ideally, you should do so multiple times a day. This could be between meetings, on your drive to work or even when you just need a break. It doesn’t take that long. But if you don’t get into the habit of checking in regularly, you will miss out on the conversations. If it helps, you could configure notifications to get alerts on the more important messages.
Never before have we had so much information come together from so many different people, on a single platform. Just combing through conversations can offer you some great insights into the pulse of our company. Listening to what your team members are saying, will give you a good sense of what is important to them and shaping their opinions. There is so much that we can draw from to introspect on and identify things that are working well or that we need to change as a company.
There is also just so much that you can learn from the many posts from across our businesses – follow our Darling brand sponsoring the Soweto Fashion Week in South Africa, cheer on the wonderful volunteering work that the Argentina team is doing, watch the Nigeria team attempt their highest milestone of carton production, see how our Indonesia team is cascading and building excitement around their priorities for the year, share in the discussions on the latest launches in India, and much more. The best part is that all of this information is readily available. You just need to start leveraging it.
Not just that, you can also use this platform to get feedback on new product testing, ads, policy changes, crowdsourcing real time ideas and market updates, among others. All you really need to do is to get creative and you could find this very helpful in gathering insights. Ask questions, listen to what people have to say and then show that you are acting on their suggestions – share your point of view and close the loop. The more responsive you are, the more you will make people feel like they are being heard out, which in turn will encourage more conversation.
But given just how much conversation is generated, you will also need to learn how to sift through all of it and find what is most relevant for you. Following the right people helps with that. So, make it a point to follow different people and sign up to be part of groups that interest you. You should definitely follow your team members, colleagues and managers to start with.
3. Be yourself
This isn’t something that someone else can do for you. People will know when you are being authentic and when you’re not; this will make all the difference. Think about what matters to you and what you would like to engage on and focus on that.
As you would probably agree, one of things that social media does, is blur the divide between what is ‘personal’ and ‘professional’. So don’t worry too much about that. Try mixing it up. That’s what people are looking for. They want to get to know you better, reach out and collaborate in ways that they can’t on something like email.
4. Set the tone
Facebook at Work, or any social networking tool really, will only be as good as how we use it. It can offer a space for conversations. But the bigger question, is how do we build a culture of open dialogue? How do we get people to speak up and share their ideas? How do we get people to trust enough in our system? As leaders, we need to set the tone for this. We need to be listening and sharing, and demonstrating our own vulnerability. We need to be okay with having our assumptions challenged – even if it is on a public platform. That will take some learning, but we really want to make a meaningful shift, then we have to start leading by example. Your team members will take their cues from you. If you don’t think you have time to collaborate, they won’t think they need to either.
5. Have real conversations
Charlene Li, in her Harvard Business Review article Why No One Uses the Corporate Social Network, sums it up best – “While it’s true that no one really cares what you had for lunch, they are keenly interested in what you discussed over lunch… Rather than expecting employees to guess what’s important to you, now you can tell them, easily, with stories and pictures on the digital channels they already use.”
What you say will shape conversations. So, beyond liking posts, start actively participating and share your perspectives and provide your insights on different topics. Don’t just share a link to a great article. Add to it and for example, talk about why you think it perhaps links to a strategic choice we are making. Solicit opinion, tag people who you think should be reading it or part of the conversation. Maybe even share a problem that you’re grappling with and ask for advice. You can tap into the larger groups and communities that we have created – we have groups created for each country and team. You could also sign up for or build your own closed group for more focused discussions. There are multiple options for cross-functional and cross-country teams to create groups to connect, chat and share project updates.
And of course, do participate in the conversations taking place. Take the time to appreciate some of the work being shared through these online updates. Use it as a way to connect with people, draw in your team members and engage much more meaningfully overall.
6. Create ‘tribal knowledge’
Everything that we create and contribute to on this platform, will be tagged, searchable content. All your posts, comments, links, presentations, pictures, data – this forms part of a massive bank of content that will remain available for people to access, both now and later. That is arguably one of the most powerful aspects of this social network. We are now able to build, record and archive conversations and data that would’ve otherwise been lost on email.
For example, when we hosted our Leapfrog strategy cascade in April, we ran most of the discussions on a closed group, captured ideas and documented feedback. This now serves as a ready reference, as well as continuing to be a place where people can share progress updates and new ideas. Digital@GCPL brings together interesting perspectives on digital and the work we are doing on our brands. On Hair Stories, we have people who are passionate about our hair businesses, sharing new trends and ideas.
What does it mean to have all this searchable information building up on one platform? The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies, a McKinsey Global Institute 2012 report, highlights how, on an average, we spend an estimated 28 per cent of our work week managing e-mail and nearly 20 per cent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. Searchable content reduces the need for this to a large extent. You can now look up what you need and possibly, reduce the time you spend searching, by as much as 35 per cent.
7. Celebrate and recognise
This is a wonderful platform to appreciate and recognise people for some of the great work they are doing, call out great performances and say thank you. The How Wow Now group that the India & SAARC team has set up, is a great example of this. They are sharing stories and videos of people who have demonstrated these behaviours. In just a couple of months, we have already built up a great repository of inspiring stories. You can do this too in smaller ways, every day.
8. Ask questions
We are all learning, so don’t hold yourself back. Please ask questions. Try out the different features. This is rather intuitive, so chances are that you won’t find it difficult to navigate. If you need some help, ask for it. And don’t forget to have some fun while you’re at it.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions on what we can do to truly leverage the power of these networks that we are building.
Image credit: freepik.com